Thomas Vermaelen, ideally, was one of Arsenal's starting center backs all season. In reality, he was a starting center back whenever there were real fullbacks available. During the Great Fullback Crisis of 2011-12 the Verminator had to play quite a bit of left back, with somewhat diminishing returns. He made 40 appearances in all competitions, divided between left side and central defense, and scored six goals with one assist.
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Thomas: I love Thomas Vermaelen, I'm just a little mad at him. Of course he is not to blame for Arsenal's defensive weaknesses this year - as we've said, none of that can be pinned on any one player - but many of his weaknesses contributed directly to a decline in goal-keep-outing, so he's sort of a mascot of the problem for me. His positional sense wasn't great (defensively) much of the year, and he got caught out a lot, which led to some goals. On the other hand, when he's actually where he's supposed to be, he's tremendous, so I will give him positive marks. Just not as positive as Koscielny. He also scored several times, including a memorable game-winner against Newcastle in stoppage time - definitely the most dramatic stoppage time goal of the season. Definitely. Like Koscielny, I think Vermaelen would do better with Per Mertesacker as a defensive partner, but both of them are better than him, so I don't really see that happening. If the Verminator can just stay back a bit better and manage a sort of divvying of forays forward with Koscielny, both will be better and the defense will strengthen.
Grade: I'LL BE BAHCK
Aidan: Thomas Vermaelen missed basically the whole of 2010-11, and, perhaps in doing so, made himself look better than he is. His problems this year related to being too aggressive and leaving too much space in behind for Laurent Koscielny to deal with, especially when Alex Song didn't drop back and cover. This is nothing new; Vermaelen was very aggressive in 2009-10, too, and it cost Arsenal goals. This isn't to say that he's a bad defender; he's a good defender, excellent on set pieces and has quite a good eye for goal, which is why his mistakes are sometimes forgiven. Indeed, his attacking runs from deep can be integral to Arsenal's attack; he just needs to realise when it's the right time to make him. What we've learned this year is that Koscielny and Vermaelen are top-class against teams playing one up front; problems are more regularly caused when they play two up front. This gives Arsene Wenger to chance to rotate his defenders; Mertesacker and Koscielny against two strikers, Koscielny/Mertesacker and Vermaelen against one striker. In terms of grades, Vermaelen is perhaps best split into attack and defence grades, and next season, we'll hopefully see improvement on his defence grade and consistency in his attack grade. He is, after all, a fairly good defender.
Paul: In theory, you love a guy like Thomas Vermaelen. He does all the right things, and he does them all pretty well. In practice, though, he's tremendously frustrating in that he doesn't always know when to do them. He's a really solid defender - he'll always clean up a mess and he'll even go crazy, push forward and score a few goals now and again. The problem is, he's like a 17 year old with a drivers license and a newly bought car - he doesn't know when to stay at home. His wanderlust can be good when he's in attack mode, but when he's supposed to be defending, more often than not you want to scream JUST STOP MOVING FORWARD and hope he hears it. That aside, though, I really like Verm; if he can better time and focus his wanderings, he will become a much better all-around player.
Ted: I'm probably going to be a little more positive about Thomas Vermaelen than most would be. This may or may not be because of the fear he instills in me. I know that he doesn't really stay at home the best, but I can't very well critique the entire team for not defending well as a unit and then lay all the failings for goals conceded at the doorstep of one man, can I? I grant that Vermaelen is positionally suspect at times, but I think that he wasn't always covered for the best by his teammates, either. His offensive contributions cannot be overlooked, either; the goal to win versus Newcastle this year was worth a passing grade almost on its own. We know what TV's weaknesses are at this point: positioning, facing two strikers (related to positioning), and occasionally getting done in his own area by larger strikers. But those moments would be lessened if the rest of the team was doing their jobs more often when Arsenal don't have the ball, I feel. Maybe I'm being overly generous, but when I look at Vermaelen, I just don't see an average defender, even this year. I see an above average defender who occasionally hits the self-destruct button; I see a streaky player who would run through a wall for somebody.
Grade: a maybe controversial B?